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October 1, 2000
Korean coach basks in glory
Jaideep Singh in Sydney
The smile never vanishes from the face of Kim Sang-Ryul, now acknowledged worldwide as the mastermind behind his country's emergence as the second ranked team in the world after the Olympic Games silver medal.
That Kim managed to smile even after the penalty shoot-out shattered his team’s dreams of striking gold says a lot about his composure.
"We were so close to the gold medal... it's not something any coach can forget," he says. "But we have emerged from the final with an enhanced status.
"Pride was part of our gameplan for the final... do you think we’ve lived up to it," he says, asking a question which was answered by the standing ovation that his boys got from the crowd after the final. The cheers weren't just reserved for the Dutch players.
"I'm obviously disheartened but am proud of my team's fighting display today. How many coaches can boast of such a determined set of players," he said.
"We've proved ourselves and are not among the top hockey nations by default."
Korea has now been ranked the highest team in Asia for two years, having finished runners-up to Australia in the 1999 Champions Trophy and now taking the runners-up place behind Holland in the Olympics.
"We are the top team in Asia now and that's not an easy thing to achieve," he said. "You have India and Pakistan who have a long-standing hockey tradition. Then there is Malaysia -- where hockey is very popular -- and Japan.
"Reaching at the top in Asia was tough work. But now the whole world knows we’re up there."
Kim saw his star player Song Seung-Tae muff the penalty stroke in what must have been the most shattering moment of his life as a hockey player, but the coach was full of appreciation for him.
"Song’s a brilliant ball player and he played an outstanding match in the final," the coach said.
It was Song who drew first blood in the final, but saw the tournament which he so dominated culminate with a feeble penalty-stroke go wide of the mark.
"Everything he did seems to have got pushed behind in people’s consideration after he missed the stroke but that’s not right," said Kim. "I'll never blame him and we'll be back stronger than ever."
Kim thinks this performance will assure people back home that the Korean men's hockey team was as good as any.
The Korean women, he says, had made their mark by being the finalists in the Olympics and the World Cup and now the men have begun their march. The hockey world better watch out !
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